Employees, Dan realized at that moment, are also parents, caregivers, friends, patients, religious adherents, students, and so on. When they walk into work, they bring all those other aspects with them; these other aspects often compete for priority with, divert attention from, or flat-out prevent employees from performing at their best and feeling satisfied by their work.
As Dan spoke about his realization, I thought about the role of mindfulness in this whole person point of view. It is true that most of us could identify a number of roles we play each day. Many of us would also confess that sometimes those roles are in conflict. Have you ever responded to work email at midnight, called in a sick day to take your cat to the vet, or ordered a wedding present online during a conference call with your boss? This is the reality of our time. We have so many things to do and so much responsibility toward each of them. It is easy to become defocused and bogged down. Cultivating mindfulness in yourself or as a corporate culture is a strong remedy to this tendency.
When we practice mindfulness, we still have all our facets, but we’re fully present with one of them at any given moment and we let the others wait their turn. When we’re at dinner with our families, we can be present instead of thinking about work. When we’re in a sales meeting, we can be present instead of compiling a grocery list. When we’re caring for aging parents, we can be present instead of being overwhelmed by emotion and stress. A mindful approach to living encourages us to value each action individually, without judgment, and to approach each action with full attention. Mindfulness is the opposite of multi-tasking, and it is the foundation for stress-free productivity.
How is mindfulness cultivated? Meditation is a common mindfulness practice, and by meditation I mean something as simple as taking a break to do a few minutes of breath awareness. Strengthen mindfulness by spending a few minutes a day doing a “body scan” in which you focus attention on individual parts of your body to recognize how they feel (tight, strained, sore or relaxed, soft, comfortable for instance). Literally “stop and smell the roses” or at the very least eat your lunch away from your screen and in more than three bites. Training your mind toward mindfulness requires practice in paying attention to one thing at a time.
After a while you’re likely to find that you enjoy what you are doing more often than not, regardless of what it is
you are actually doing, because you’ll discover small joys in everyday tasks. You’ll feel more energetic and focused, more productive, and less scattered. When I started practicing mindfulness, I noticed that I less frequently felt pressed for time or overburdened with tasks. Mindfulness helps cut down on the churn of stress and anxiety. Dan Henry didn’t mention the word mindfulness in his presentation, but I suspect that he’d recognize and support the approach. Imagine how powerful a corporate culture of mindfulness would be for cultivating employee satisfaction and wellbeing? Imagine how powerful a social culture of mindfulness would be for improving how we interact with each other? All it takes is a little practice and a little attention.